This would be the first export under a Japan-India agreement on defence equipment, technology signed in 2015. Government sources said the export aims to encourage India to reduce its reliance on Russia for military equipment, boost Japan-India defence ties in light of China’s military rise

Japan is planning to export to India stealth antennas equipped on a new Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyer (MSDF), as the two countries strengthen security cooperation, government sources said on Saturday.

If realised, it would be the first export case under a Japan-India agreement on defence equipment and technology transfer signed in 2015.

The envisioned export is intended to prompt India to reduce its reliance on Russia in procuring military equipment and boost defence ties between Japan and India amid China’s military rise, the sources said.

Japan is eager to increase its defence equipment and technology exports to prop up the domestic defence industry, although it sets strict conditions due to its war-renouncing Constitution.

For instance, the three overarching principles on the transfer of defence equipment say that the transfer should not be used for offence but purposes such as surveillance and minesweeping.

Japan plans to export to India a system called Unicorn, in which numerous antennas are housed in a horn-shaped structure. It is equipped on the MSDF’s new destroyer FFM commissioned in 2022.

By covering the antennas in one structure, the Unicorn system can reduce the reflection of enemy radio waves. In previous Japanese destroyers, each antenna was exposed on the mast.

Japan and India agreed to cooperate on the transfer of the Unicorn system when their foreign and defence ministers met in Tokyo in September for the “two-plus-two” meeting, the sources said.

While Japan is concerned about China’s growing maritime assertiveness, India has a long-standing border dispute with the Asian power.

Japan and India are part of the Quad, a four-way security framework that also includes Australia and the US, with China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region being one of their most pressing issues.

At the two-plus-two meeting, Japan told India it supports the South Asian country’s efforts to diversify sources of arms procurements, the sources said.

Following the meeting, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the MSDF’s Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture. The minister is believed to have inspected the Unicorn system mounted on the new destroyer, Kumano, and was likely briefed on its capabilities.

Aside from India, Japan has signed similar defence equipment transfer agreements with 11 countries – the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The agreements came as the government led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe relaxed the rules on the transfer of defence equipment and technology in 2014 in the first major overhaul of the country’s long-held arms embargo.

Japan aims to boost arms exports, but only one contract for a finished product – air defence radars – has been concluded with the Philippines. The slow start for such exports is partly because of high prices.

Ahead of the planned revision of the National Security Strategy, the country’s long-term security and diplomatic policy guidelines, at the end of this year, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed to ease the restrictions to allow more equipment to be exported.